Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic translation made from a post originally written in French. My apologies for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have been generated during the process. If you are reading French, click on the French flag below to access the original and correct text:
Dragons exist, I met them! Scales, claws, forked tongue, everything is there... Listening only to my courage, I went to photograph these big prehistoric lizards or "varans" which live in the archipelago of Komodo, in Indonesia.
Hunter of dragons
Indiana Jones can go get dressed. Not happy to take me for a princess on the PaschaI also became an intrepid adventurer and dragon hunter on the island of Rinca (pronounced "Rine-tcha").
With that of Komodo - in the archipelago of the same name - Rinca is the other island where tourists are landed to meet the famous Komodo dragons. They are very big lizards, of the family of the varans. They are endangered and protected. It would remain between 4 000 and 5 000 in the region of the Lesser Sunda Islands, in Indonesia.
Listening only to my courage, I went to photograph them for you... Not even afraid!
Admire the big ugly claws, the prehistoric scales, the forked tongue! These monsters have been feeding fears and fantasies since the beginning of the 20th century, when Westerners discovered them.
It is the expedition of the American William Douglas BurdenHe brought back two live specimens and we owe him the expression "Komodo dragons". This expedition even inspired the plot of the film King Kong by Cooper and Shoedsack in 1933! Three of his stuffed monitors can still be seen in the American Museum of Natural History.
Komodo monitor attacks on a child (in 2007) and a fisherman (in 2009), and the story of this small group of divers stranded on the island of Rinca (in 2008), who had to fend off a lizard by throwing rocks at it, continue to maintain the fear of these charming creatures.
That said, the dragons of Komodo may have become a tourist attraction, but it is better to be wary of them. The rangers who show you the island are armed with long forked sticks. It is not to entertain the gallery or just for the pictures. It's to repel the intrepid giant lizard that might be tempted to approach.
Komodo monitors measure 2.50 to 3 meters long, including the tail. It was long believed that their saliva contained highly toxic bacteria. In fact, like other reptiles, they have venom glands [see section "Venom and bacteria"]. on Wikipedia]. A bite can be fatal.
You would think they were slow and clumsy when you find them huddled, snoozing, near the garbage cans of one of the ranger bungalows, which serves as a kitchen. But they are incredibly fast and agile.
The rangers-guides propose to take the photos to prevent the imprudent tourists from coming too close. A small group of visitors took possession of the terrace in overhang to better observe them, when we arrive.
It is really recommended not to get too close. The dragons are used to human presence, they know that they can find food in the area. But they remain wild animals, with unpredictable reactions. Courageous, but not reckless, I wisely stay at a distance, following the rangers' instructions. Indiana Jones would have done the same.
Each one then leaves to explore the island, preceded by a ranger armed with a forked stick.
I admit, I am a little disappointed not to have met any other dragons on the way. The only ones I saw - and photographed - were the ones hanging out near the rangers' lodgings.
Under the sun of Rinca
The island of Rinca is arid. A savannah landscape, with very little shade, overhanging the azure of the water. Some palm trees here and there.
The only big animal we came across during this little expedition was a wild buffalo. I was only afraid afterwards. When I realized that the buffalo was not tied up.
Well yes, used to those of the rice fields, I did not think of it at first. We are in a natural reserve, here! The animals are free. It can be as dangerous as a varan, a wild buffalo...
Two hours of walking in full sun. But the ride is worth it.
Jerome, my guide diving on the PaschaWe had the chance to see the island from a different angle. And our guide-ranger, adorable, stops regularly to show us the natural curiosities of the island: edible fruits imprisoned in a calabash, whose name I forgot. Water hens hidden in the mangrove. Holes dug by female monitor lizards, where they lay their eggs. A monkey hanging high in a tangle of branches.
At each turn of the path, I watch, hoping for a monitor. But no. Nothing. Another water hen.
My soul of Indiana Jones and my bravery begin to melt under this merciless sun. We share the sips of water which remain at the bottom of the bottles. When the walk ends, it is with happiness that I find the hut with memories of the rangers, where I buy no wooden figurine with the effigy of the dragons, but where I draw a new energy, in the shade, to sip an almost fresh Coke.
A tip to our guide and here we are ready to re-embark on the Pascha. I am a little sad. Because it is also my last day in the Komodo archipelago...
But I still have a few things to show you. There are more than just land animals with teeth around here: there are plenty underwater too (Indiana Jones, get out of that body!).